Christianity and logic

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Dr. Greg Bahnsen, the creator of the Transcendental argument for the existence of God, became known as "the man atheists fear most" due to Michael Martin's cancellation of their scheduled debate.[1]

Logic (Greek λογίζω – I think, I reason; from λόγος – reason) refers the patterns in reasoning behind arguments. In philosophy, logic is a sub-branch of epistemology that deals with and attempts to guide the faculty of human reason. It is often studied alongside mathematics.

Dave Miller, Ph.D. of the Apologetics Press organization states concerning Christianity and logic:

The term “logic” refers to nothing more than correct reasoning. A person is logical when he or she reasons correctly. Being “illogical” amounts to engaging in incorrect reasoning. Does the Bible reflect

affinity with the laws of thought and logic? Did Jesus, Paul, and other inspired speakers and writers argue their cases, prove their propositions, and engage in rational, reasonable discourse? The truth is that those who were selected by God (prophets, apostles, and Bible writers) to communicate His will to the world always presented their divinely inspired communication with logical precision. They never once committed a logical error. They always argued the case for Christianity accurately and rationally—precisely what one would expect if they were guided by the perfect rational Mind.

While on Earth, Jesus demonstrated incredible proclivity for rationality in His sharp, potent, penetrating use of logic and sound argumentation. His first recorded responsible activity consisted of a logical dialogue between Himself (at the age of twelve) and the Jewish theologians. “All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47, emp. added). The next recorded instance of Jesus’ public cognitive activity was on the occasion of His baptism. He reasoned with John in order to convince John to immerse Him (Matthew 3:13-15), advancing a logical reason to justify the action.[2]

Dr. Jason Lisle of the Biblical Science Institute states:

Logic is the principles of correct reasoning. To be logical is to reason rightly. And God always reasons rightly because His mind determines truth. Therefore, to be logical is to think in a way that is consistent with the nature of God. Biblically, we are supposed to emulate God’s character (Ephesians 5:1). Therefore, we should be logical. We should turn away from thinking that is contrary to God’s thinking, and align our thoughts with God’s (Isaiah 55:7-8, Romans 12:2).

Since God is rigorously self-consistent, the basic pattern of His thoughts can be described at least partly by exception-less, unchanging, universal laws. We call these laws of logic. For example, God never denies or contradicts Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Therefore, truth will never contradict truth. We call this the law of non-contradiction. In order for something to be true, it must correspond to the mind of God. Therefore, truthful things will never violate laws of logic. Truth always matches God’s thinking, with no exceptions.[3]

J. Warner Wallace of the Cold Case Christianity organization indicates:

If God exists, He is the absolute, objective, transcendent standard of truth. The Laws of Logic are simply a reflection of the nature of God.

The Christian Worldview accounts for the existence of the transcendent Laws of Logic. If God exists, He is the absolute, objective, transcendent standard of truth. The Laws of Logic are simply a reflection of the nature of God. God did not create these laws. They are a reflection of His rational thinking, and for this reason, they are as eternal as God Himself. You and I, as humans, have the ability to discover these laws because we have been created in the image of God, but we don’t create or invent the laws. As an atheist, however, I rejected this conclusion and offered a number of alternative explanations related to the Laws of Logic. Is God Real? The Laws of Logic (much like the appearance of our universe from nothing) provide us with evidence establishing the most reasonable inference: God exists and has created a universe in which we can find and know Him.[4]

Dr. Lisle also wrote:

If indeed the biblical God exists, and if indeed He has the characteristics attributed to Him by the Bible (all-knowing, all-powerful, beyond time, etc.) then the critic has no basis whatsoever for denying that the miraculous is possible. Clearly, an all-powerful God can make a donkey talk, can create the universe in six days, can bring two of every animal to Noah, etc. These are simply not problems in the biblical worldview. When the critic dismisses the miraculous solely on the basis that it is miraculous, he is simply begging the question.

However, sometimes the critic asserts that the Bible has actually violated a law of logic; he claims that two passages in the Scriptures are contradictory. This is a more serious challenge, because two contradictory statements cannot both be true—even in principle. If the Bible actually endorsed two contradictory statements, then necessarily one of them would have to be false, and the Bible could not be totally inerrant. In reality, most alleged contradictions turn out to be nothing of the kind. They simply reveal that the critic does not truly understand what a contradiction is. A contradiction is “A and not A at the same time and in the same relationship” where A is any proposition. To contradict is to both affirm and deny the same proposition. And this is not the nature of most alleged biblical contradictions.[5]

Melinda Penner of the Stand To Reason organization states:

Christianity can be seen as an explanatory hypothesis to account for certain phenomena we observe in the world: the origin of the universe, the design of the universe, and the universality of morality. The explanations that Christianity provides to this empirical data provide a cumulative case for the rationality of Christianity, and in fact, the superiority of Christianity to other belief systems. Monotheistic religions (namely Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) enjoy a special rational advantage over other kinds of religious beliefs in their explanatory power, but, as will be shown, Christianity is the most rationally satisfying. Three criteria can be applied to developing the positive case for Christianity and simultaneously the negative case against other religious belief claims: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and existential viability.

Logical consistency seems to be more "cut and dry" than the other two criteria. Logic is a natural function of human minds and is universally practiced. In fact, the universality of logic itself needs to be explained in a religious worldview. Many religious beliefs can be dismissed at the outset because they fail this first criterion, for example eastern religions that deny rationality and logic. They not only cannot account for logic, they fail the test of rationality since they hold contradictory beliefs.[6]

Andrew Cabrera of the Cross Examined ministry states:

The laws of logic are not invented; they are discovered truths about the nature of reality itself. It is commonly accepted that there are three fundamental laws of logic and that all other logical principles are derived from these three laws; these foundational laws are: the principle of identity, the law of the excluded middle, and the law of non-contradiction...

We are made in the image of God as both moral and rational beings. In the same way that we should strive to emulate God’s goodness, we should also strive to emulate his rationality. Logic not only helps us to attain a more robust understanding of the nature of God, but it is essential for fulfilling our commands to share the gospel and have a ready defense of the hope within us. Far from being an opposing force, logic is at the core of the Christian faith. Throughout the Old and New Testament, the authors (and even Jesus himself) make claims of exclusivity, identity and ontological reality; all of which are meaningless without first granting the fundamental laws of logic. Proper exegesis, historical data, every classical argument for the existence of God, every theological position you take, and even the Gospel message itself are all -in one way or another- dependent on these fundamental laws being true. Even the very nature and existence of God must be described in terms of these fundamental laws. If you take away the principle of identity, the identity and deity of Christ follows suit. If the law of non-contradiction is lost, so is the exclusivity of truth itself, and any meaningful notions of the existence of God go with it.[7]

The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) declares:

Logic is typically very important in apologetics. To defend the faith, the Christian must use truth, facts, and reason appropriately and prayerfully. The Christian should listen to objections and make cogent and rational comments in direct response to the issues raised.

Logic is simply a tool in the arsenal of Christian apologetics. Logic is a system of reasoning. It is the principle of proper thinking used to arrive at correct conclusions. Of course, some people are better at thinking logically than others, and there is no guarantee that using logic to the best of one's ability will bring about the conversion of anyone. After all, logic is not what saves a person. Jesus does that, and we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1).

Therefore, the proper use of logic in apologetics is to remove intellectual barriers that hinder a person from accepting Jesus as Savior. Logic is not to be looked at as the answer to every problem facing Christianity nor every objection raised against it. Logic has its limits. It cannot guarantee wisdom. It cannot prove or disprove inspiration or love. It cannot replace the intuition gained through experience, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, nor the clear truth of God's word. Nevertheless, logic is still very valuable and can be quite powerfully used by people--both saved and unsaved.[8]

See also